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  • Friday, July 26, 2013

     

    OUSD REVOLTS

    SPECIAL REPORT









    A Diverse coalition of over two hundred converge on OUSD meeting

    Community in Revolt

    Hundreds rally
    Over two hundred people attended the Orange Unified School Board meeting on Thursday night for a rally and to voice their objection to the proposed high density apartment development complex at the district owned former Peralta Jr. High School site. Most of the crowd stayed late into the evening for the Peralta lease agreement presentation.

    Orange Councilman Alvarez addresses OUSD Board
    A sea of orange shirts, signs opposing the development and a rally organized by the Save Peralta Property group and the Orange Peralta Neighborhood Association greeted the Orange Unified Trustees convening before the scheduled Closed Session.

    Closed Session Agenda Item 4D was listed as Conference with Negotiators for the Peralta project. The Trustees waved the 20 minute rule per one topic rule and took public comments from opponents of the Peralta development for 30 minutes before the Closed Session. Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez spoke last to the OUSD Board offering to work jointly with the trustees to find a solution adding “I don’t understand why you would choose a path that would divide the community”.

    The Trustees then adjourned to closed session and returned after 45 minutes to start the regular Open Session. 

    Many tell trustees "I bleed orange".
    Returning to the Board Room for the Open Session, the Board was again greeted by an overflow crowd most wearing Orange with signs opposing the development. Trustee Diane Singer asked that Agenda Item 13 C on the Peralta Site be heard first out of order. Trustee Rick Ledesma suggested all the Agenda’s Information items be taken first in order because Item 13 A had information on district enrollment demographics that he felt was related to the need for the Peralta site as a future school. In the end, Singer’s motion to take the Peralta item first, then the rest of the information items passed 5-2 (Surridge and Ledesma voting No).

    After extending the time limit twice to allow all the speakers to speak, the Board listened to over an hour of Public Comments- all of them opposing the Peralta site. The dozens of speakers included residents from Orange, Villa Park and Anaheim Hills- many of whom identified themselves as life-long residents and products of OUSD schools, and others who have lived here for multiple decades. Among them was Orange Councilman Dennis Bilodeau (who legally could not opposed the item yet, but urged another path), former  Villa Park Councilman and Foothills Sentry Publisher Richard Callahan, community leaders and activists, members of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, realtors, business persons, teachers, parents and students. Not one community member spoke in favor of the development.


    Interwoven with arguments against the potential traffic were school issues, city services issues, the projects economic viability, and the length of the lease. Many of the speakers recognized the need for money to fix and repair outdated school facilities and while praising the trustees for thinking outside the box in creative financing, they urged them to partner with the growing political momentum against the project to pass a Bond measure.


    After exhausting all the public comments, the Trustees heard from the district negotiators- an attorney and a consultant to review portions of the Option Agreement and Ground Lease agreement that had just been released to the trustees and public.  Many of the items reviewed were directly related to some of the financial issues brought up by opponents, but the legal terms and the cut-and-paste aspect of the presentation-combined with the late hour-had members of the audience, staff and trustees visibly struggling to keep up with the power-point presentation. 

    Trustee Diane Singer responded to the presentation by saying that with such a complicated document, the trustees needed time to digest the information. Singer also wanted the questions that the trustees had to be answered in an open meeting to keep things “completely transparent”.

    Concerns over the July 31st, negotiating deadline also caused confusion.  The attorney stated that that deadline had been met with the lease document that the trustees now had. Singer replied that it was a “draft” document and not the final. The attorney explained that the Board now had time to review the “negotiated” draft, and ask for changes from Fairfield LLC. Fairfield then could accept the changes or reject them- no further negotiations would take place-thus the July 31 negotiating deadline had been met.

    As the trustees struggled on how to approach the complicated steps of reviewing the document, having questions answered, making a request for changes to Fairfield, then changing the draft into a final document and scheduling an action item vote, it became clear that the problem of timing would play a key factor. Singer wanted a open discussion before a vote was scheduled on the lease to facilitate any needed changes. Surridge wanted to schedule a yes or no vote on the day of any discussions. Trustee Moffat suggested a two-meeting approach- a Special Session Study Session, then a scheduled Action Item vote. In the end, the timing and scheduling referred to OUSD Superintendent Michael Christensen. The Superintendent reminded the trustees that each step would produce lengthy public comments from the community.

    In the follow-up questions to the property negotiators, the negotiators revealed that in the lease, Fairfield gave the district the generous rent percentages included in exchange for the district receiving no percentage of profit “if” Fairfield sold the development. It became clear form the consultants that selling the complex was a major issue in the negotiations. It was also revealed that because the district will not have a say in who ultimately owns and manages the apartment complex, it was important for the negotiators to include the capital improvements fund until year 89 of the lease. Other items discussed included the fact that any company owning the buildings could borrow against them, but not the land.


    In answering a question form Mark Wayland, the consultant confirmed that after the 99 year lease, OUSD would receive all the buildings. At that point, if the district wanted the land, they would be responsible for demolishing and clearing the 100 year old apartments. 





    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

     

    Peralta Rally time changed



    SAVE PERALTA Rally at OUSD District Office Time Change

    To accommodate the Closed Session Agenda item on the Peralta Site Lease at 6:00 pm, the Save Peralta Property has changed the Rally time to 5:15 pm at the OUSD District Office.


    LINK to UPDATED Save Peralta Rally : RALLY INFO












    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

     

    OUSD financial disaster predicted by expert

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    a news service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/ Independent insight into OUSD

    Surridge OUSD Trustee majority pushes forward Peralta site development plans as
    Real Estate expert calls Surridge Peralta numbers clear and chilling” and a “financial disaster

    On Monday July 22, in an open letter to the Orange Unified School District Board of Trustees, Richard Callahan, Foothills Sentry writer and former VP and Controller of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group, does the real estate math with the numbers OUSD President Tim Surridge has used to support the Peralta site development in Board meetings and around the community.

    In Callahan’s letter titled A Pending Financial Disaster, he calls into question the projects assumptions of occupancy rates, interest rates, its tax-exempt status, and a clause that makes OUSD responsible for all “property taxes”. The real estate expert asserts the numbers are “clear and chilling” and states:

     “The Fairfield, Peralta project is a financial disaster and will prey on the funds meant to go to our children’s education no matter what Tim Surridge promises.”

    For full Callahan letter text CLICK ON: Financial Disaster


    Peralta opponent signs 
    If math weren't enough, most would assume that yard signs, community rallys and a growing neighborhood association flexing its political muscle-and making cross town alliances with other neighborhoods - would make most politicians take a second look at any policy.  Not so with the OUSD Board of Trustees majority under the leadership of Board President Timothy Surridge. The majority is ignoring all the signs of a classic community uprising and going for broke with their push toward a super-sized development at the former Peralta School site. 

    The OUSD trustees however only hold half of the political cards in this high stakes political game. The other political player, that has all the expertise and advantages of the “house”, is the City of Orange


    To make matters worst for Surridge and his allies they have burned all public and private bridges with the political powers in the small, but influential close-knit City of Villa Park. A political novice, Surridge has underestimating the special symbiotic political relationship between the two Greater Orange cities by his disdainful treatment of Trustee Kathy Moffat, the Foothills Sentry and other Villa Park officials.


    Disregarding mounting community opposition, community organizing, mathematical evidence and signs of a political uprising, the Surridge Majority of OUSD Trustees (Timothy Surridge, Mark Wayland, Rick Ledesma and John Ortega) continue their Washington-like ultra-conservative my-way or the highway approach. The often condescending stance toward project opponents, political flip-flopping and outright lies prompted one organizer to tell Orange Net News “This school board has really made it personal.”

    July 15 neighborhood rally
    On Monday July 15 a neighborhood rally drew the support of a cross section of Greater Orange political heavy-weights in a show of a diverse coalition in opposition to OUSD policies not seen since the 2001 Orange Recall Campaign.  Then as now, a similarly arrogant ultra-reactionary OUSD Board majority pushed the community to a breaking point.  Then as now, the increasingly entrenched Board ignored all warning signs in an arrogant belief in their own political power.

    This Thursday, as the OUSD Board meets in Closed Session (Agenda Item 4 D) to discuss the Peralta site negotiations and according to the posted legal Agenda for Item 4 D :

     “Purpose- Instructions to negotiators concerning price and terms of payment for potential lease”.  

    On May 14, 2013 a Special Session of the OUSD Board was held to extend the deadline of the ENA negotiations with the developer to July 31, 2013. With Thursday’s OUSD Agenda including negotiation instructions, and just six days left before the deadline, another Special Session will be required to vote to extend the negotiations within the next 6 days if negotiations are to again be extended.

    Also on the Thursday agenda will be an information item, Item 13 C. OUSD staff will be giving information on the Peralta site “Option Agreement and Ground lease”.

    Add to this a 5:15 rally outside the OUSD District Offices being organized by the Save Peralta Property group and this Thursday’s OUSD Board Meeting will be one of the don’t miss political events of  the year.

    For information on Thursday's RALLY CLICK ON: OUSD RALLY

    OUSD continues down expensive antiquated Blackboard path
    Like its chalk and slate namesake, the Blackboard course management system has become an antiquated system that has never reached its potential in OUSD or the hundreds of thousands of schools that were early adopters and jumped on the Blackboard band wagon.

    In the July 25th Agenda, OUSD Consent Agenda Item 14 J (Agenda page 55) has OUSD sending an all-time high of $128,336 for this year’s Blackboard account.

    Blackboard critics abound. From colleges to high schools, Blackboard first developed in the late 1990’s is considered a slow awkward and antiquated system. Despite the barrage of criticism, Blackboard has flourished financially as the only game in town for numerous years, spending its early resources not focused on research and development, but on putting out fires and buying out rivals to raid their innovations (most recently ANGEL Learning Inc). Blackboard has also focused resources in an ongoing battle with the barrage of criticism in the media (its Wikipedia page is flagged as unreliable because of the constant monitoring and changing and deleting of critical information). The compay has run into copyright problems, copy and paste problems, MS Word problems and numerous browser compatibility problems with its Java based system.  Problems with Google Chrome and Java interface also occur which has prevented OUSD from applying the full benefits of the Google world to its systems.

    Despite all its problems, the Blackboard business strategy has led it to be very successful and profitable business (it is listed on the NASDAQ) enabling it to buy its way out of continued problems.  However, the internet has changed, and Blackboard is now in trouble with rivals that are “open source” – and unable to be bought- and available for free to schools and districts.

    The classic “open source” story is the Mozilla vs Netscape. When AOL released the Netscape source code (it duped Mozilla) the new version produced with open source eventually outperformed and took over the original Netscape AOL freed Mozilla, and discontinued Netscape (the jaded Netscape team then tried to continue its own independent development of Netscape). The new open source Mozilla Foxfire produced a nimble and far superior user friendly product.  That is what is taking place now with course management systems. As Blackboard continues with its antiquated-expensive and outdated closed source configuration managed by local administrators, it is losing ground to user friendly free “open source” and cloud based systems. Yet, many districts, like OUSD are slow to react and continue to pay ever increasing fees for a service that few employees and students use- unless forced to. Both the bang and the buck are gone.

    Moodle, an open source and free Blackboard rival, is projected to eventually surpass Blackboard in users. Other open source educational management platforms that cutting edge teachers, schools and districts are migrating to include: Sakai; OLAT; Caroline; Joomla and Blackboard arch nemesis Desire2Learn (Blackboard sued them). Along with these is the newest entry - cloud based educational management platform Haiku.

    Why are these new platforms so successful with the cutting edge techies? One need look no farther than the case study of the OUSD costs (and few benefits) to understand.  Here are the OUSD Board approved costs for problem plagued Blackboard in OUSD:

    2006- $39,240
    2007- $71,760 (two different accounts one for license one for maintenance)
    2008- $89,457
    2009- $120, 562
    2010- $59,458 (price negotiated by then OUSD Tech Director Blake Chism)
    2011- $116,406
    2012- $122,226
    2013- $128,336

    As of this Thursday’s OUSD approval of Blackboard, it will costs OUSD three times more than it did seven years ago. OUSD’s dependence on Blackboard could lead it to fall further behind in the technology world as new teachers brought up on open source platforms in college are forced to work with the technology of their grandparents.

    Just take a look at what the education community was saying 5 years ago CLICK ON:
    Blackboard vs Moodle  2008

    To look at Moodle- CLICK ON: MOODLE


    INSIDE the OUSD July 25 Agenda
    Closed Session

    • Agenda 4 B- Hiring of new Yorba MS Principal (announcement made at the beginning of open session).
    Open Session

    • Agenda 12 A – OUSD and teacher’s union agreement
    • Agenda 12 B – Reduction of furlough days for Leadership Employees
    • Agenda 12 C – added days to the Student Calendar for next school year
    • Agenda 13 A-  demographic updates
    • Agenda 13 B – Bond financing information
    • Agenda 13 D- Surplus property –Killerfer site
    • Agenda 13 E-  El Rancho Charter construction projects-information

    Next OUSD Board Meeting July25th
    OUSD CLOSED SESSION STARTS 6:00 PM, Regular Session: 7:00 pm

    For more information call the OUSD Superintendent’s office at 714-628-4040
    For budgeting questions call Business Services at 714-628-4015
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